Leaders celebrate end of record-setting cruise season in Milwaukee

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Milwaukee’s 2022 record-setting cruise ship season came to a close Wednesday with the departure of the 400-passenger MS Hamburg.

The Hamburg, which is operated by German company Plantours, was just one of eight different cruise ships that made 33 port calls this year in Milwaukee, including the new Viking Octantis.

Since the start of cruise season in May, 13,610 visitors have stopped in Milwaukee – a number that shows a drastic increase over the fewer than 1,000 people that arrived here via cruise ships in 2018.

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The 33 cruise ship port calls and 13,610 passengers are both cruise season records for Port Milwaukee.

“I can confidently say that this has been a banner year,” said Adam Tindall-Schlicht, director of Port Milwaukee, during a press conference Wednesday. “Milwaukee has become a turnaround port of choice for international cruise lines operating in the Great Lakes.”

After two years of COVID-related cancellations, cruise ship activity came roaring back in 2022. By June, Port Milwaukee had already exceeded 2019 levels of cruise activity. Port Milwaukee staff handled approximately 16,000 pieces of luggage during this year’s cruise season.

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“Clearly, Milwaukee and our port is an efficient and accommodating place for cruises to operate now and in the future,” said Tindall-Schlicht.

Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee, said the economic impact of this year’s cruise season in Milwaukee is over $3.1 million. Over 27 different businesses benefitted from visits from tourists, who were chauffeured around different attractions by Great Lakes Shore Excursions.

City and state officials expressed optimism about next year’s cruise season as well. David Naftzger, director of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers, said the organization expects growth in overall passenger numbers by 15% for the Great Lakes region. Throughout the Midwest, there were more than 150,000 passenger visits this year. In addition, two more ships will visit the Great Lakes in 2023.

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